Should family members of homosexuals be expelled from church?

An open letter to Gary Massey, personal injury attorney and pulpit preacher at Mountain Creek Church of Christ, Chattanooga, TN

Dear Gary,

I recently watched your sermon entitled “Should family members of homosexuals be expelled from church?” as delivered to Mountain Creek Church of Christ in Chattanooga, TN last month. I am writing as a sister in Christ to share my deep concerns about the content and character of your sermon.

The occasion of your sermon was to uphold the decision of  Ridgedale Church of Christ for expelling a family who were seen supporting their daughter, Kat Cooper, a detective in Collegedale, in her plea for benefits to be extended to same-sex couples who are employed by the city.  You state in very clear terms that you support the church who delivered an ultimatum - the mother could repent for her sins and ask forgiveness in front of the congregation or leave the church where her family has worshipped for over 60 years.

First, let me say that I understand that you believe with all of your heart and mind that the bible teaches that individuals who engage in homosexual behavior are going to hell. I understand that you read the bible in a very literal way, well in some places, and that you follow all the laws of the bible, well, except the one’s that you don’t. I also understand that you believe it is your duty as a Christian to work to save souls of sinners and to protect the souls of the righteous who might somehow be in danger of sinning when they love unconditionally.

So I took the time to listen to your whole sermon, and I even listened to a couple more, and God has put it on my heart for me to speak the truth in love to help you where you may be going astray, where you might need to look closely at your sin, and repent.

I realize that since I am a woman my words will hold little value to you.  I further understand that because I am gay you do not believe that I have any right to claim the name Christian.  I invite you to get to know me through more of my posts here to understand how deeply Christian I truly am. I could take this opportunity to point out how unfortunate your own lifestyle is.  I am of course referring to the fact that you are a practicing attorney.  As one who reads the bible very carefully I am sure you realize that lawyers were not exactly on Jesus’ good side. I am not going to disparage lawyers so much as point out that your two professions together give me the theological heebie-jeebies.  See lawyers are associated with the Pharisees in several places in Luke (Luke 7:30; 14:3) and are typically understood in opposition to Jesus in the Gospels, (Matt. 22:35, Luke 1:25; Luke 11:45-52).

But for now, let’s leave behind that which separates us and focus on what binds us – God’s love.

I want to start with a scripture you quote very late in your address to the congregation.  You seem to read the bible through the lens of the ex-pharisee Paul rather through the lens of God incarnate, Jesus.  You quote from a letter written by Paul to a very specific community regarding a very specific series of conflicts and power struggles in the church of Corinth.  You read 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 7-8 (plucked out of it’s context like much of the scripture you rapidly fired into the congregation) – here is that verse: “so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”

I find a passage on forgiveness a curious place to plant a flag in a sermon about expelling members from a church.  It is almost as if you did not hear the words you were reading. And that got me to thinking that perhaps you simply do not understand what the bible is about.  So I prayed a lot about your sermon, I read my own bible and I even watched your sermon entitled “God is Love” that you delivered back in February and the Spirit did provoke me to reach out to you to help you better understand the bible, how it differs from The Word and perhaps move you to accept the work of the Spirit in the world today.

I think the greatest place in your sermon that we could perhaps work to help you better understand is where you lean in to frighten your congregation by comparing the spreading evil to the work of yeast.  I find this a curious analogy for a few reasons.  First, you are calling the unconditional love of parents for their child evil.  This of course is simply wrong, but we can get to that a little later.  Yeast is indeed understood in many biblical passages as a negative, corrosive agent.  What is troubling for me is that you seem to forget when Jesus compared yeast to the Kingdom of God.  Here, let me help you out a bit.

“And again he said, to what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” Luke 13:20-21

Now I imagine this parable is likely problematic for you since God is portrayed as a woman and that She conceals rather than reveals through a substance that in every other biblical instance  represents corruption or evil.  So in the ears of the original hearers this parable was a startling, offensive message that likens the reign of God to corruptive yeast. In other words Jesus’ story paints a picture of God’s realm as one that reverses previous notions of holiness – no longer unleavened but leavened by persons and behavior that would have been considered corrupt, unclean or sinful according to prevailing interpretations of purity laws. Yes – totally absurd! Jesus has the gaul to tell us that the kingdom (that which is holy and good) is to be imagined as an epiphany of corruption? How radical is this Jesus (that legalists will conspire with the state to execute)? So radical that it subverts a ready listener’s dependency on the rules of the sacred, the predicability of what is good and right, an warns that instead, the expected evil that the religious elite abhor will corrupt is indeed the kingdom of God.

With this rendering of a core message of the gospel I would like to point you back to a sermon of your own where you boldly claim that God is love.  listen again to ywow own  sermon where you acknowledge that we all have a fundamental need for love,  sermon where you admit that we all spend a great deal of time and energy seeking love. I want you to consider the call you expect gay and lesbian people to live – that we reject a fundamental aspect of our createdness and live as half humans – and in so doing we reject the hand of the potter who fashioned us to love in the way we do – and in so doing we reject God in whose image we are made.

The evil you imagine spreading through your congregation, through the hearts and minds of other Christians is in fact the yeast of unconditional love that a mother has for her child.  The yeast is hidden in the otherwise unleavened bread of the human heart.

It is my prayer that this reflection on what Jesus had to say might enter your heart, bring you closer to Jesus and set your feet on a path lit by God’s love and embolden your voice to proclaim the liberating Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that welcomes into the body of Christ, INTO THE KINGDOM, even the families of homosexuals.  Even homosexuals.

“Let me tell you about this God.

A God who has always used imperfect people.

A God whose loving desire to be known overflowed the heavens and became manifest in the rapidly dividing cells inside the womb of an insignificant peasant girl in first century Palestine.

A God who slipped into skin and walked among us full of grace and truth with sand between his toes. Who ate with all the wrong people. And kissed lepers and touched the unclean and spoke through thirsty women and hungry men. Who from the cross did not even lift a finger to condemn the enemy but instead said I would rather die than be in the sin accounting business anymore.”  ~ pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran pastor who serves The House for All Sinner and Saints in Colorado.

 

 

Your sister in Christ,

Kimberly Knight

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

  • melissia

    There is no sin in a mother or a father loving their child unconditionally.

    Christ loves us all unconditionally, and in learning to love even just one person that way, we become more like Him. A parent who stands with their children and loves them regardless is living out the truest of Christian ideals.

  • Pjs8200

    Personally, I’m a recovering catholic. Religion brought me to the brink of suicide, literally, because of my bisexuality. Fortunately, the divine spirit interceded on my behalf and my life was changed instantly. Since that time, I’ve watched this struggle for those of the LGBT community to be accepted as equals in places of worship, only in most cases to be denied, scorned and even outright rejected and banished. For the past 15 years I have studied the bible in regards to same sex relationships and I find it curious that rarely in all these discussions, is the case of Jonathan and David mentioned and examined. Same with Ruth and Naomi. These are both solid examples of same sex relationships IN the bible, not only that, but cast in a light of acceptance. We all know that so many so-called “Christians” only mimic and parrot what some preacher told them, never giving thought to how their actions were affecting those that they are judging, but self righteously clinging to the notion that they are “right” with God. Never mind they’re going against almost every lesson that Jesus taught us about being good and true and loving even our enemies. I also find it curious that those people who have never (or claim they never) have had to personally deal with same sex attractions or issues can so blatantly denounce those of us who have. Keep in mind they’re ONLY argument against it is what they’ve been told by a religious leader and THEY’RE interpretation of the bible. That’s it. How that seems reasonable to a supposedly rational human being is completely beyond me. That would be akin to me saying that physics are evil. I have no working knowledge on the subject, but I’m going to base my OPINION on something I read in a book and not question it any further. Call me crazy…but that’s just stupid.
    In reality, this issue isn’t as clear cut as these people make it sound. They take a few bible versus completely out of context, while ignoring the settings of society and government at the time the bible is written and believe that makes them right. What about the rest of Leviticus, why is it that one or two lines are supposed to be upheld today, but the rest of it ignored? Jesus never said a word about homosexuality, but he was VERY adamant about divorce being an abomination, but I don’t see these same religious zealots picketing in front of their local divorce courts. Truth is, these people do more harm than good and they need to be called out constantly on their ignorance as well as their hypocrisy.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Dear Kimberly, unfortunately I could not find your email so I’m going to ask you that as a comment.

    I am a progressive Christian exploring ways to be an intellectually honest follower of Christ without holding fast on harmful dogmas.

    As I mentionned in a previous comment, I’ve presented a very compelling theological argument for the acceptance of commited lifelong relationships, even if it might mean having to give up the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy:
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/on-the-sinfulness-of-homsexuality-von-der-sundigkeit-der-homosexualitat-deutschunten/

    I would feel very honored if you would accept to be interviewed by me about living out your homosexuality while passionately following the footsteps of Jesus.

    If you are interested, my email is lotharlorraine@gmail.com

    Friendly greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • James_Jarvis

    I watched both Garry Massey’s sermon and Nadia Bolz-Weber sermon. I hope I soon forget Gary Massey’s sermon but I know Nadia’s sermon will be written on my heart forever. Wow, can she preach a sermon.

    Here are some bible verses Gary Massey seems have forgotten.

    For I am persuaded , that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present , nor things to come ,
    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

    If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I
    reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
    1 Corinthians 13:1-13

  • hippiewill

    Were adulterers asked to leave or backbiters?

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Hello Kim, that was really a wonderful sermon, a true Tour de Force!

    I admire you for still being able to remain loving and respectful in spite of all the resentment which must be weighing on your heart.

    We should never feel superior to such people but hope they will give up their perverted theology (and maybe Biblical inerrancy) and will take seriously the idea that God is a morally perfect being.

    Consequently God does not forbid homosexuality since it isn’t harmful for anyone and people never chose to be gay.

    According to my experience, many intelligent and bright people who have grown up in such fundamentalist churches have given up Christianity and become angry, militant atheists, throwing the proverbial baby with the bathwater.

    I have read lots of heart-breaking deconversion testimonies of former Christians who have been spiritually abused.

    I consider it my duty to say to fundamentalists that the god they worship is not worthy of that name, but that’s certainly not the central message of Jesus
    https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/the-central-message-of-jesus-die-zentrale-botschaft-von-jesus-unten/
    and that they don’t have to give up Christianity in order to accept homosexuality as something normal and not sinful.

    Sorry if I’ve written too much.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com


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